Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday pledged victory in Ukraine, brushing off his military’s embarrassing battlefield missteps and casting the invasion as a “noble” fight.
Speaking to space industry workers at the Vostochny Spaceport in Russia’s Far East region, Mr. Putin said that peace talks between Russia and Ukraine have hit a dead end, suggesting that a negotiated cease-fire is not on the horizon and that he is prepared to continue the military campaign for the foreseeable future. The Russian leader also slammed U.S. and allied sanctions imposed since the invasion began Feb. 24 and said his country’s economy will survive the financial onslaught it is facing.
Tuesday’s public comments are Mr. Putin’s first since his troops withdrew from northern Ukraine last week, effectively ending their ill-fated attempt to capture the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv and topple the government of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
Despite clear failures so far, Mr. Putin virtually guaranteed that the Russian mission will succeed.
“I don’t have any doubt at all,” he said, according to Reuters. “Its goals are absolutely clear and noble. There is no doubt that the goals will be achieved.”
The Russian president also dismissed images of civilians brutally killed in the Kyiv suburb of Bucha as fake, saying the United States was in no position to criticize Russia given how its military performed in its campaign against Islamic State forces in Syria.
“Have you seen how this Syrian city was turned to rubble by American aircraft? Corpses lay in the ruins for months decomposing,” Putin said. “Nobody cared. No one even noticed.”
Mr. Putin’s defiant comments come as his forces reposition themselves for a major offensive on Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region. Mr. Putin and his deputies say they will focus the bulk of their military might on Luhansk and Donetsk, two territories that Russia recognizes as breakaway territories but that officially remain a part of Ukraine.
U.S. defense officials said Monday that Russia is gathering personnel, weapons and equipment for a major assault on the Donbas. Ukrainian leaders have urged civilians to flee the area ahead of the looming fight.
In his remarks, Mr. Putin also took shots at the West and said its “blitzkrieg” of economic sanctions on Moscow will fall flat. He said the U.S. and NATO effort to cut off Moscow’s economy from the rest of the world hasn’t worked.
“We are not going to seal ourselves off. In today’s world, it is completely impossible to fully isolate anyone, and totally impossible [to isolate] such an enormous country like Russia. Therefore, we will work with those of our partners who want to cooperate,” he said, according to Russia’s state-run Tass news agency.
He went on to cast Russia’s current situation in a historical context, saying Moscow also faced strong Western opposition in the early days of its space program and still was able to succeed.
“Despite it all, the Soviet Union was the first to launch an artificial Earth satellite, the first cosmonaut was ours, the first flight of a space station to reach the Moon was also ours, the first spacewalk was ours, the first female cosmonaut … was also ours,” Mr. Putin said, according to Tass. “We did everything under conditions of complete technological isolation, and [we] achieved such colossal success.”